All About a Film….

Wener Herzog in his masterful book on art and filmmaking, A Guide for the Perplexed, referring to the filmmaker’s broader cultural responsibility said that, “We need images in accordance with our civilization and innermost conditioning, which is why I appreciate a film that searches for novelty, no matter what direction it moves and what story it tells….”  In an era of increased flash and dash and superimposed imagery, regularly churned from the mills of Hollywood or even from the shores of Bollywood, films which captures such ideals of reflections of civilizations and its conditioning are far and few to come by. If they do, they are often slotted under the broad category of” Cinema” or “Parallel Films” making one wonder, what is the true difference between “Cinema” and a “Movie” and what is parallel to the this parallel films. Rarely, does one come across, a film that combines the reflections of societal norms with a narrative, comparable to the plot lines of the more popular and what is termed as “Commercial Cinema”.

Panchaali, a film made under the flagship  of Pumpkin Entertainment, produced by Shweta Saraf and directed by Saurabh Bali, seems to fulfill this balanced nuance of reflecting the masochist tribal norms that still inflict, the Indian society in many parts as well a gripping narrative, that leaves the viewers breathless with a “what-happens-next” feeling. The film opens with 5 men waiting, for someone, on road, just off the main thoroughfare, of the big metropolis. Through their banter, it unfolds that they are all brothers and deal in land and politics. A white vehicle is then spotted by one of them and within a few minutes, all its passengers’ albeit one are killed due to non-payment of an old debt. This one survivor, the daughter of the family killed is taken hostage by the brothers and taken to their home. There the mother of the five brothers decides the faith of this girl, setting off a chain of events that would forever change this family and its history!

For those familiar, with Indian mythology, the resonance of the Draupadi’s tale from Mahabharata is very clear from the onset; however, that is where the parallel ends! The story then takes on a life of its own, wonderfully combining the details of an ancient myth and the modern day settings and reaction of both society and individual. It conveys the still traditional society of northern India, where a woman count for little and guns and violence still rules the day and makes for what is deemed as powerful.  At the same time, the film smartly in less than 40 minutes takes the viewers through a cataclysmic narrative, all the while clearly delineating the characters of plot, something many fail to achieve even in full length cinema! It is to the credit of the magnificent cast that this nearly impossible feat is achieved and despite an exceptionally talented ensemble, that competes for the viewers’ attention, by turns, outshining one another, with their talent, some callouts are necessary! Manav Mehra, who plays the eldest of the 5 brothers, is an experienced theater actor, who brings all his mastery of the craft to the screen; one cannot quite describe the eerie feeling, every time he looks into the camera. Bhanu Rana is yet another worthy talent and in his portrayal as the second brother, displays such strong raw raging emotions that come through palpably and the viewer feels both sympathy and irritation with him in turns. Nitin Rao as third of brother gives a strong controlled performance as the man, who knows he is better than his brothers and destined to be the king, but cannot quite bring himself to unhinge from the filial binds, though, he knows he stands to gain the most! However, the star of the film remains Nishtha Paliwal Tomar, conveying all the range of emotions that a woman torn from her moorings can convey. She is an absolute genius using  who is able to express a range of powerful feelings sharing with her the viewer her fear, angst and anger, making them cheer her on to survive, as she navigates through the most traumatic experience, that a woman can be forced into. The settings of the film convey exactly what it is meant to convey – vastness, desolation and captivity. The sights and sounds of a semi-rural culture in India, not too far from the metropolis, caught between ancient traditions and modern greed, assaults your senses, in every fine twist of the plot. While, there is much to appreciate in the film, there are some weak chinks in what can be seen as solid armor; most of the cast is tenured and bring all their expertise to camera, but some of the actors fail to emote anything and one wonders, that except for the one standard sly grin, which is expected to showcase everything from anger to lust, what does this particular character want to say to the audience. Also due to the duration of the film, some of the transition and changes of sentiments are not given enough time and the viewers expected to adapt to the changing psychological landscape of the character within minutes, which may make it slightly difficult to follow. But, despite some these minor shortcomings, the film is a brilliant effort, which is a testimony to the fact that with creativity, vision and a talented crew, an old story can be reinvented into a gripping modern tale.

The Autumn Winter Joys….

I know I have been away for like a mini-while but work and social commitments and everything else got in the way!  But I am back and I realize so is Autumn –Winter! I have soooooo waited for this season to arrive; I hate and the word is HATE summers and cannot eulogize enough about the Autumn-Winter. Many who have read my blogs in past know that I always celebrate the coming of these seasons and push away the thoughts of summers into far back subconscious of my mind and make believe that they will never come back again – unrealistic I agree but I don’t want to think about unpleasant things, when good times roll! God know there will be time enough for the long, blazing unrelenting heat, where the earth is scorched and fire pours down from the heavens! Therefore on, to the good things and happy times – and in celebration, I began this game last year, where I quote my favorite autumn/winter poem, and list some of my favorite place, books, films and music, that celebrate this season with me –

Film – Fargo directed by Cohen Brother. Francis McDormand made history by playing the character of pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson in trail of kidnappers and murders, set in the white snow bringing home the fact that goodness does triumph!

Music – Can there be anything better than the wonderful, rich and velvety voice of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald immortalizing the autumn, specifically in New York.

Book – I know this is may be a bit clichéd but nothing speaks Winter as brilliantly as War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. It a tome of history, philosophy, politics and fiction, but it all set in the backdrop of the crystal white snows of Russia- the picture perfect postcard season that finally stops Napolean’s unstoppable march! One of my most favorite all time reads, a perfect winter book, to be read during the cold long winter nights

Thing – Tea, pots and pots of tea! Especially the “masala chai” that’s made in this part of the world, with dried cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon sticks and black peppercorn, all mied with black tea. The most fabulous drink for big books and cold winter nights!

Poem – I love this beautiful and a little melancholic poem by William Butler Yates; it is not the most happiest of the poems, but it is beautiful and absolutely brilliant – published in 1917.

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

So, here’s to the smell woodfire smoke, hot chocolate/chai and gathering around the fire, here’s to festivals and togetherness and merry making, here’s to holidays and long nights under warm blankets and big books!

Serching for Truth in Victorian England

I know this review comes a bit late, but I guess better late than never!! I finished reading my second Margaret Kennedy book for Jane’s Margaret Kennedy Week yesterday, but between one thing and the other could not blog about it! So here’s my take on ‘’The Wild Swan” – It is absolutely remarkable! I know all you believe that I begin swooning just by reference to Margaret Kennedy and have lost all discerning abilities, but I cannot help it! She was a wonderful author and I cannot but feel that it’s a crying shame that today not too many people know of her work! Now back to the book!

kennedy-badgeThe Wild Swan opens with Roy Collins, a 25-year-old cynic with immense talent who works for BBB (Blech Bernstein British) as a script writer. He is ambitious and wants to become a director, but knows that the road to that position is not easy and compromises have to be made to reach it. He has developed a style of smooth talking and a sham personality to get along with everyone and get everything done, without any authenticity of character. His current assignment brings him to Bramstock, where he is to assist play right Adelaide Lassiter and critic Alec Mundy put together a script on the life of Dorothea Harding. Dorothea was a Victorian novelist, who wrote prim romantic novels set is historical backdrop which were a great success in her days, but now are complete forgotten! It was believed until about 20 years ago, that she led a completely blameless as well as color less life, until Mundy uncovered some of her poetry and a diary based on which he wrote a book claiming hidden passions and sinful love for her brother-in-law, who was her sister’s husband. Based on this book, Adelaide Lassiter wrote a play about their “affair” and this play was now basis of the film. Dorothea Harding’s current family, the owners of Bramstock, are not particularly interested in how their relation is portrayed as long they can get the money for allowing filming on the estate. Roy himself is not much interested in the work – he has never read any of Dorothea Harding’s work nor is he really concerned with what gets presented on the celluloid, as long as he can get his job done and get back to BBB headquarters and pursue his ambition. However certain incidents and discovery of some new letters, force Roy to realize that not everything is as it seems, and the truth runs deeper than it initially appeared and this one time, it is imperative to bring the truth forward, regardless of the cost – even if it impacts his ultimate dreams!!

The plot is wonderful, you are plunged write into the truth of Dorothea Harding’s life right at the start, but in a distinctive narrative style, it takes a while for the readers to actually put the whole jigsaw puzzle together and the ending, which is so simple, that it becomes extraordinary in a landscape of unreal or fairy tale like climactic endings. The characterizations, which I now realize is Ms. Kennedy’s core strength, blew me away. Dorothea Harding, lovely spirited and free, is woman after my heart. Her hopes and ambitions contradicts the norms of her society and when her plans are thwarted, she still has the moral courage to go on and continue to be good and generous. Roy is absolutely wonderful, a good boy turned jaded soul turned honest man; you feel the triumph of human spirit when he decides to follow the truth, despite all odds! The only character I could not warm up to was Cecilia Harding, but then I think Ms. Kennedy wanted us to feel that way about her and I do understand the frustration of being immensely gifted and not being able to use it because of lack of fund. My favorite character was Adelaide Lassiter – she alone stands for all that is innocent, brave and honest. She may not be the smartest or the wisest, but she knows what is right and never a moment, not even at the very peak of her success, does she lose sight of that! The language as always is wonderful and I could quote lines after lines from the book, but will contend myself with only a few – “Why should I be loaded with luxuries I don’t care for and be denied the one thing for which I crave – my leisure?” “I think she meant that happiness is really a prison and our gaolers are our preferences. We think we like one person or one place better than another. We regret the past, and we fear the future. But to a broken heart, all places are the same, there is the same grief to be encountered everywhere. And time is not important.” Wow!! The book is filled with such che-ching and the coin dropped moments!!

What a joy you are to read Ms. Kennedy!

P.S. In other news, please do remember that I am currently running a crowdfunding project and we need your support to make it happen. Details are found here.

There are a couple of ways to support this cause –

  1. We need financial patronage – We need your monetary help to complete this project. Every contribution is of great value and you have our heartfelt appreciation for any amount that you put forth. You can pay via a credit/debit card, directly at Indiegogo’s Website (The project is called Identity on a Palate)
  2. Help us Spread the Word – Please share this campaign on your social network so that more people can become aware of this project. The more people see this, more the chances of us reaching our goal. Please so send me the link or a mail for the same, as we would love to see this live!

Please do help and Thank You again!